County has rogue lions in its sights - Stevens County
to push for state action on cougars
The plan was supported by most of the 16 people who turned out Tuesday afternoon for a public hearing, and commissioners placed the issue on their Feb. 11 agenda for possible action.
As in Okanogan and Ferry counties, the proposed Stevens County wildlife commission would be aimed at encouraging the state Fish and Wildlife Department to be more aggressive in dealing with cougars. Commissioners don't contemplate hiring their own hound hunters to track down problem cats, but don't rule out the possibility.
The Stevens County plan calls for a citizen group to monitor cougar problems and collect evidence that county commissioners hope state officials won't be able to ignore.
"It has to work hand in hand with the state," Commissioner Merrill Ott said. "If they don't know what's taking place, how can they take care of it?"
Once state officials are put on notice, though, county officials will expect action, Ott said.
"If they don't respond, we have to take care of our citizens, and that's what we'll have to do," Ott said.
He noted that the 1996 initiative law that banned hound hunting makes an exception for county agents "acting in their official capacities for the purpose of protecting livestock, domestic animals, private property, or the public safety."
Chairman Tony Delgado said county commissioners want the proposed county Fish and Wildlife Commission to focus on getting cougar populations reduced in certain areas. The problem with the state approach to cougars is that it focuses on complaints about individual cats, Delgado said.
Commissioner Malcolm Friedman, of Colville, said he supports establishing a county wildlife commission "in concept," but hopes to hear from more residents before taking action.
"I think we need to be responsive to the citizens of Stevens County," Friedman said, noting that a cougar was seen prowling inside the city several times last year.
The animal, dubbed the Colville Mountain Cougar, was tracked down and shot Dec. 30.
One of those who encouraged commissioners to get into the wildlife management business was 28-year veteran state wildlife agent Dave Ross, 72, who retired in 1986.
"Since that date, I have seen a very drastic reduction in the Department of Wildlife's ability to take care of business," Ross said. "I think you're on the right track. I'm behind you all the way."
The problem, according to lifelong Colville-area resident Randy Erdman, is that the Department of Fish and Wildlife "lets the general public, mainly over on the West Coast, dictate what we have to live with."
A couple of Ferry County residents also supported the Stevens County plan.
John Millenaar, who lives about two miles north of Kettle Falls, on the Ferry County side of the Columbia River, said an "SSS" policy -- shoot, shovel and shut up -- is working "quite well" in his county.
Initiative 655, passed in 1996, banned the use of hounds in hunting. Four years later, the Legislature partially rescinded the law to allow limited hound hunting to thin cougar populations in problem areas.
But several speakers Tuesday said state wildlife officials haven't adequately exercised their restored authority.
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